“True Christian politeness will always be the result of an unselfish regard for the feelings of others, and though you may err in the ceremonious points of etiquette, you will never be impolite.”

“If you wish to be a well-bred lady, you must carry your good manners everywhere with you. It is not a thing that can be laid aside. True politeness is uniform disinterestedness trifles, accompanied by the calm self-possession which belongs to a noble simplicity of purpose; and this must be the effect of a Christian spirit running through all you do, or say, or think; and, unless you cultivate it and exercise it, upon all occasions and towards all persons, it will never be a part of yourself.”

The Ladies Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness

Author: Florence Hartley Published: 1860


Chapter I.


Chapter II.


Chapter III.


Chapter IV.

How to Behave at a Hotel

Chapter V.

EVENING Parties--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter VI.

EVENING Parties--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter VII.

Visiting--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter VIII.

Visiting--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter IX.

MORNING RECEPTIONS OR Calls--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter X.

MORNING RECEPTIONS OR Calls--etiquette for the Caller

Chapter XI.

DINNER Company--etiquette for the Hostess

Chapter XII.

DINNER Company--etiquette for the Guest

Chapter XIII.

Table Etiquette

Chapter XIV.

Conduct in the Street

Chapter XV.

Letter Writing

Chapter XVI.

Polite Deportment and Good Habits

Chapter XVII.

Conduct in Church

Chapter XVIII.

BALL ROOM Etiquette--for the Hostess

Chapter XIX.

BALL ROOM Etiquette--for the Guest

Chapter XX.

Places of Amusement

Chapter XXI.


Chapter XXII.


Chapter XXIII.

On a Young Lady's Conduct When Contemplating Marriage

Chapter XXIV.

Bridal Etiquette

Chapter XXV.

Hints on Health

Chapter XXVI.



For the Complexion




When you have decided upon what evening you will give your ball, send out your invitations, a fortnight before the evening appointed. To ladies, word them:--

Mrs. L---- requests the pleasure of Miss G----'s company on Wednesday evening, Jan. 17th, at 9 o'clock.


The favor of an early answer is requested.

To gentlemen:--

Mrs. L----'s compliments to Mr. R---- for Wednesday evening, Jan. 17th, at 9 o'clock.


The favor of an early answer is requested.

If you are unmarried, put your mother's name with your own upon the cards. If you have a father or grown-up brother, let the invitations to the gentlemen go in his name.

In making your list for a ball, do not set down all of your "dear five hundred friends." The middle-aged, (unless they come as chaperons,) the serious, and the sober-minded, will not accept your invitation, and the two last named may consider it insulting to be invited to so frivolous an amusement. By the way, I do not agree with the straight-laced people, who condemn all such amusements. I agree with Madame Pilau. When the cure of her parish told her he was writing a series of sermons against dancing, she said to him:

"You are talking of what you do not understand. You have never been to a ball, I have; and I assure you there is no sin in the matter worthy of mention or notice."

If you really wish for dancing, you will accommodate your guests to your rooms, inviting one third more than they will hold, as about that number generally disappoint a ball-giver. If you wish to have a rush of people, and do not mind heat, crowding, and discomfort, to insure an immense assembly, (a ball to be talked about for its size only,) then you may invite every body who figures upon your visiting list.

Over one hundred is a "large ball," under that a "ball," unless there are less than fifty guests, when it is merely a "dance."

The directions given in chapter 5th for the arrangement of the dressing-rooms will apply here, but your parlor, or ball room, requires some attention. Have the carpets taken up two days before the evening of the ball, and the floor waxed. A smooth, polished floor is an absolute necessity for pleasant dancing. At one end of your ball room, have a space partitioned off for the musicians. Leave, for their use, plenty of room, as silence or discord will come from a crowded orchestra. If your house is double, and you use the rooms on each side, place the musicians in the hall.

Four pieces of music is enough for a private ball, unless your rooms are very large. For one room a piano, violin, and violoncello makes a good band.

You must have your rooms well ventilated if you wish to avoid fainting and discomfort.

To secure a really brilliant ball, pay considerable attention to the arrangement of your ball room. In Paris this arrangement consists in turning the room, for the evening, into a perfect garden. Every corner is filled with flowers. Wreaths, bouquets, baskets, and flowering-plants in moss-covered pots. With brilliant light, and taste in the details of arranging them, this profusion of flowers produces an exquisitely beautiful effect, and harmonizes perfectly with the light dresses, cheerful faces, and gay music. The pleasure of your guests, as well as the beauty of the rooms, will be increased by the elegance of your arrangements; their beauty will be heightened by brilliant light, and by judicious management a scene of fairy-like illusion may be produced.

Not only in the ball room itself, but in the hall, supper-room, and dressing-rooms, place flowers. A fine effect is produced, by placing a screen, covered with green and flowers, before the space set apart for the musicians. To hear the music proceeding from behind this floral embankment, and yet have the scraping and puffing men invisible, adds very much to the illusion of the scene.

In the dressing-rooms have, at least, two servants for each. Let them take the cloaks and hoods, and put a numbered ticket upon each bundle, handing the duplicate number to the lady or gentleman owning it.

It is best to have the supper-room upon the same floor as the ball room. The light dresses, worn upon such occasions, suffer severely in passing up and down a crowded staircase.

Have a number of double cards written or printed with a list of the dances, arranged in order, upon one side, and a space for engagements upon the other. Attach a small pencil to each. Let a waiter stand at the entrance to the ball room, and hand a card to each guest as they pass in.

The first strain of music must be a march; then follows a quadrille, then a waltz. Other dances follow in any order you prefer until the fourteenth, which should be the march which announces supper. If you throw open the supper-room, early, and the guests go out when they wish, the march may be omitted. Twenty-one to twenty-four dances are sufficient. Have an interval of ten minutes after each one.

The supper-room should be thrown open at midnight, and remain open until your last guest has departed. Let it be brilliantly lighted, and have plenty of waiters in attendance.

There can be no rule laid down for the supper. It may be hot or heavily iced. It may consist entirely of confectionary, or it may include the bill of fare for a hotel table. One rule you must observe; have abundance of everything. Other entertainments may be given upon economical principles, but a ball cannot. Light, attendance, supper, every detail must be carefully attended to, and a ball must be an expensive luxury.

At a ball-supper every one stands up. The waiters will hand refreshment from the tables to the gentlemen, who, in turn, wait upon the ladies.

You must bring forth your whole array of smiles, when you perform the part of hostess in a ball room. As your guests will come dropping in at all hours, you must hover near the door to greet each one entering. There will be many strangers amongst the gentlemen. Miss G. will bring her fiancee. Miss L., her brother, just returned, after ten years' absence, from India. Miss R. introduces her cousin, in the city for a week. Miss M., as a belle, will, perhaps, take the liberty of telling some ten or twelve of her most devoted admirers where she may be seen on the evening of your ball, and, though strangers, they will, one after another, bow over your hand. To each and every one you must extend the amiable greeting due to an invited guest. If you are the only lady of the house, your duties will, indeed, be laborious. You must be everywhere at the same moment. Not a guest must pass unwelcomed. You must introduce partners to all the wall-flowers. You must see that every set is made up before the music commences. Each guest must be introduced to a proper partner for every dance, and not one frown, one pettish word, one look of fatigue, one sigh of utter weariness must disturb your smiling serenity. You must be ready to chat cheerfully with every bore who detains you, when crossing the room, to make up a set of quadrilles in a minute's time; listen patiently to the sighing lover, whose fair one is engaged fifty times during twenty dances; secure a good dancer for each longing belle; do the same for the beaux; yet you must never be hurried, worried, or fatigued.

If there are several ladies, a mother and two or three daughters, for instance, divide the duties. Let one receive the guests, another arrange the sets, a third introduce couples, and a fourth pair off the talkers. A brother or father will be a treasure in a ball room, as the standing of sets can be better managed by a gentleman than a lady.

None of the ladies who give the ball should dance until every fair guest has a partner.

One of your duties will be to see that no young ladies lose their supper for want of an escort to ask them to go out. You may give the hint to an intimate gentleman friend, if there is no brother or father to take the duty, introduce him to the disconsolate damsel, and send her off happy. If all the guests go to the supper-room when it is first thrown open, you must be the last to leave the ball room. For the hostess to take the lead to the supper-room, leaving her guests to pair off, and follow as they please, is in very bad taste.

If you announce supper by a march, many of your guests will remain in the ball room, to promenade, avoid the crowd at the first table, and indulge in a tete-a-tete conversation. These will afterwards go out, in pairs, when the first crush in the refreshment-room is over.

If, by accident or negligence, you miss an introduction to any of your gentlemen guests, you may still speak to them if you wish. It is your privilege as hostess to introduce yourself, and invite any gentleman to dance with you, or offer to introduce him to a partner. In the latter case he ought to mention his name, but if he omits to do so, you may ask it.

There has been a custom introduced in some of our large cities lately, which is an admirable one for a private ball. It is to hire, for the evening, a public hall. This includes the dressing-room, supper-room, every comfort, and saves you from the thousand annoyances which are certain to follow a ball in a private house. You hire the hall and other rooms, the price including light, hire a band of music, and order a supper at a confectioners, hiring from his establishment all the china, glass, and silver you will want. In this case you must enclose in every invitation a ticket to admit your friend's party, to prevent loungers from the street coming in, uninvited.

You will, perhaps, find the actual outlay of money greater, when you thus hire your ball room, but you will save more than the difference in labor, annoyance, and the injury to your house. You secure a better room than any parlor, you have the floor waxed and polished without the trouble of taking up your carpets. You save all the dreadful labor of cleaning up the house the next day, as well as that of preparation.

You can, if you wish, invite a few friends to a late dinner with you, and all proceed to the ball room together. You must be the first to enter the room, the last to leave it, and every duty is the same as if you were at home; the ball room is, in fact, your own house, for the evening.

If you wish your guests to come in costume for a fancy ball, name the character of the entertainment in your invitation.

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